Friday, February 11, 2011

Is Mars/Venus Philosophy True for Children Too?

Yes, men and women are different but when do these differences begin?  Which has a greater influence - genes or environment?  Until recently, most gender studies were conducted on older children and adults.  With today's scientific advances, we are beginning to identify sameness and difference right from the moment of conception.  You would be surprised what is being discovered!

Having grown up with only sisters, and having raised two daughters, I thought I was an expert on female gender strengths and weaknesses.  That is, until I read neuroscientist Lise Eliot's book Pink Brain, Blue Brain:  How Small Differences Grow into Troublesome Gaps - and What We Can Do About It.  Eliot argues that "infant brains are so malleable that small differences at birth become amplified over time, as parents, teachers, peers - and the culture at large - unwittingly reinforce gender stereotypes."  For instance, it has been said that boys are smarter in math than girls. In fact, boys' brains are better wired for certain kinds of spatial reasoning, an attribute needed to be proficient in geometry.  However, if girls are given the opportunity to play with toys that encourage spatial reasoning, such as puzzles, then the slight difference is null.  Some of us may believe, on the other hand, that a girl's brain is wired better than a boy's brain for communication. Interestingly, it is the combination of infant fussiness and caregivers' communication skills during infancy that most influences how good of a communicator each of us becomes. 

The Museum, in partnership with Hobson Cooperative Nursery School, will be hosting a Just for Grown-ups presentation with Dr. Eliot on Monday, February 28.  She will share the latest research and give practical advice for what parents and caregivers can do to help children reach their fullest potential.  Click here for more information or to register for this event.

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